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Carry out a safety assessment

Carry out a safety assessment

The safety assessment guides decision making about:

  • the threat of immediate harm to the child in the household
  • what interventions are needed to keep the child safe
  • a safety decision for each child in the household
  • whether an immediate safety plan can be developed to ensure the safety of any child who remains in the home, if immediate harm indicators have been identified.

An initial safety assessment is carried out as soon as possible at the start of an investigation and assessment, during the first face-to-face contact with a child and family. Subsequent safety assessments occur throughout intervention with a child and family.

Use the safety assessment tool to identify immediate harm indicators for the child and decide if the child:

  • can stay at home safely
    or
  • can stay at home with protective interventions
    or
  • must be placed outside the home to keep them safe.

Before leaving the child in the home:

  • gather enough information to complete the safety assessment
  • ensure the child’s immediate safety.

Do not complete a safety assessment for:

  • a harm report
  • the investigation and assessment of an unborn child.

Complete the safety assessment for the household where the harm or risk of harm is alleged to have occurred. If the parents do not live together and harm or risk is alleged in both households, complete two safety assessments.

Practice prompt

If investigating and assessing an unborn child notification, and the child is born before the investigation and assessment outcome is approved, sight the child and complete a safety assessment.

For an ASC co-response, the CSO completes the safety assessment.

Complete the initial safety assessment

To complete the safety assessment:

  • Gather and analyse information from observations and interviews with
    • the child and their family
    • other relevant people.
  • Provide parents with information about the concerns, so they can participate fully in the process.

If no immediate harm indicators are identified, no further action is required. Continue with the investigation and assessment.

If one or more immediate harm indicators are identified:

  • Discuss them with the family.
  • Decide in collaboration with the family and the safety and support network, if possible, what actions and interventions are needed to keep the child safe. The intervention will be either:
    • non-custody interventions developed and agreed to in an immediate safety plan to keep the child safe in the household. Always intervene based on the needs of the most vulnerable child in the home
      or
    • placement interventions (with an approved carer) if an immediate safety plan cannot be developed to keep the child safe.
  • Encourage the family to identify people or services they know and trust, who may agree to be safety and support network members in an immediate safety plan.
  • Ask the family about their Aboriginal tradition or Island custom, to inform the safety assessment for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child.
  • Assess whether the agreed safety interventions are adequate to mitigate the safety concerns present in the household.
  • Finalise the immediate safety plan in collaboration with the child and family and their network.
  • Record the immediate safety plan for each child who will stay in the home.
  • Give a copy of the immediate safety plan to each person responsible for actions in the plan.
  • Record the safety assessment in ICMS. The safety assessment outcome will appear in the Assessment and outcome form in ICMS.
  • Submit the safety assessment, and the immediate safety plan, if required, to the senior team leader for approval within 72 hours of completing the safety assessment.

Attention

Contact the unaccompanied humanitarian minor (UHM) program officer, Adoption and Permanent Care Services, about the outcome of the safety assessment for an unaccompanied humanitarian minor.

Practice prompt

If a Significant DFV threat alert is recorded in a person’s profile in ICMS:

  • Consider the perpetrator’s pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour and the direct and indirect impact this is having on the children, victim and family functioning.
  • Partner with the non-offending parent and ask them about their own safety needs and the protective acts they have taken to keep their children safe.
  • Complete an assessment of risk for their current household and decide if a new alert is needed—if the existing alert refers to domestic and family violence perpetrated in a previous relationship.
  • Consider what information, if provided to the perpetrator during the investigation and assessment, may compromise the safety of the victim or child. (Refer to Consider privacy—domestic and family violence.)

Complete a subsequent safety assessment:

  • if new information or a change in circumstances indicates a threat to the child’s safety but the information does not reach the threshold for a notification—for example, a change in household membership, including a parent leaving, an adult or child moving in, or a newborn or a child discharged from hospital
  • if any party to the immediate safety plan is not complying with the current safety plan
  • before returning a child home:
    • after an unsafe safety decision
    • if the child is subject to a care agreement
    • if a parent removes a child from an approved care arrangement
  • if a child returns home from an approved care arrangement, without Child Safety approval.

Further reading

Develop an immediate safety plan

The immediate safety plan is a written agreement collaboratively developed with the family, child and the family’s network if an immediate harm indicator has been identified and at least one child will stay in the home.

The immediate safety plan must address the immediate harm in the present to short term future.

If there is a Significant DFV threat alert recorded in a person’s profile in ICMS, consider all the previous information relating to the domestic and family violence.

Note

If the child is assessed as safe with an immediate safety plan, the conditions specified in the plan are to mitigate the risk of harm that would otherwise require the child to be out of the home. If non-custody interventions cannot ensure the child’s safety, consult the senior team leader about an appropriate placement intervention.

Child Safety is responsible for collaboratively developing, implementing and monitoring the immediate safety plan, including when other agencies are responsible for actions within the plan.

Time sensitive

It is recommended that an immediate safety plan not be in place for more than 7 days without a new safety assessment being completed.

Before developing a safety plan for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child:

  • Tell the parents of their right to have an independent person to help facilitate their participation in developing the safety plan.
  • Arrange for the independent person, if the child and family ask for one.
  • Contact the senior team leader, who will decide suitability of the independent person, unless it is:
    • not practical or possible because the independent person is not available or because the safety plan must be developed urgently
    • likely to have a significant adverse effect on the safety or emotional wellbeing of the child or another person
    • not in the child’s best interest.
  • Make arrangements to ensure the child’s family group is able to meaningfully participate in developing the immediate safety plan.

If a Family Participation Program representative is also present and the family agrees, they may either:

  • facilitate the family’s participation in the development of the immediate safety plan
    or
  • be the family’s independent person (if the suitability of the Family Participation Program’s representative has been determined).

An individual staff member from the Family Participation Program cannot carry out both roles.

To develop an immediate safety plan:

  • Describe what Child Safety is worried about, addressing each identified immediate harm indicator, its impacts, and the individual safety needs of each child—especially those with increased vulnerability due to age or disability.
  • Outline what the parents, safety and support network members and other people must do immediately to ensure the child’s safety in the home—and assess their ability to complete all required actions.
  • Contact other parties, identified by the family as safety and support network members, to confirm their willingness, ability and suitability to participate in the immediate safety plan, and tell them about the identified harm indicators.
  • Seek agreement from all parties to the necessary intervention.
  • Record how the plan will be monitored, by whom and how often.
  • Record the family’s and network members’ agreement to the plan and make sure the plan is signed by all the people involved in its implementation.
  • Record the immediate safety plan in culturally appropriate and family-centred language.
  • Schedule a date for the review of the immediate safety plan.
  • Give a copy of the completed and signed immediate safety plan to the parents, the child if appropriate, and any other person involved in its implementation.
  • Tell the family that the plan will remain in place until:
    • the immediate danger is resolved
    • a new safety assessment is completed and, if needed, a new immediate safety plan is developed
      or
    • a case plan is developed that ensures the child’s safety and addresses issues in the safety plan.
  • Record the immediate safety plan or attach a hard copy of the plan in the safety assessment form in ICMS.

Practice prompt

If during the investigation and assessment it is identified that a parent’s access to the child’s My Health Record poses a significant risk to the child’s safety―for example, because it gives details of the child’s whereabouts―support the other parent in contacting the My Health Record helpline on 1800 723 471 and requesting that a restriction be placed on the child’s record.

Consider a private arrangement

A private arrangement:

  • is a non-custody arrangement
  • is organised by the child’s parents, not Child Safety
  • is in place for a short time—up to 2 or 3 days
  • gives parents time to take immediate actions needed to address safety concerns for the child.

Consider a private arrangement if:

  • one or more immediate harm indicator has been identified
  • the child needs to live outside the home due to the risks identified
  • the parents agree for the child to stay with a family member or friend.

Note

As the private arrangement is organised by the parent, not by Child Safety, the  child will be cared for by a family member or friend, not an approved carer.

Before agreeing to the private arrangement as part of the immediate safety plan, make direct contact with the person nominated by the parents to care for the child, to:

  • decide if they are suitable, including whether they are:
    • able to care for the child for the agreed time
    • willing and have the capacity to co-operate and keep the child safe from the identified harm
    • willing to immediately advise the CSSC or CSAHSC if the child returns home
  • provide them with the CSSC and the CSAHSC contact details
  • advise them that a check of their child protection history will need to be carried out and considered before they can care for the child.

Finalise the safety assessment and immediate safety plan if:

  • the person agrees to care for the child
    and
  • the child protection history check raises no concern about them caring for the child.

If the person nominated by the parents to care for the child has a child protection history:

  • Consult the senior team leader to decide if the private arrangement is suitable.
  • Discuss (with the nominated person) their child protection history to clarify any issues, if necessary. Do not disclose the person’s child protection history to the child’s parents or any other third party.
  • Record the decision and the arrangement made between the relevant parties.
  • Review the immediate safety plan to make sure it meets the child’s safety needs or to consider whether a placement intervention is required.

Use a placement intervention

Always use a placement intervention if:

  • An immediate safety plan cannot be developed with the family and at least one network member to ensure the child’s safety in the home.
  • It is in the best interests of the child to be provided with a formal, legal care arrangement.
  • It is assessed that:
    • the parent, or the person proposed to care for the child may not adhere to a private arrangement
    • the child is likely to return to the parent’s care where the high-risk factors exist
      and
    • the parent is more likely to adhere to a formal arrangement.
  • A private arrangement is not suitable or a parent cannot identify a person to care for the child in a private arrangement.

Before placing a child, obtain the necessary authority for the care arrangement. This could be:

  • an assessment care agreement—if the parents agree to the child being placed in care
  • an assessment order (TAO or CAO granting custody to the chief executive)—if further assessment is needed, and a parent does not agree to an assessment care agreement
  • a TCO—if the child is already in need of protection, and a parent does not agree to the care agreement.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child:

  • Tell the parents about their right to have an independent person to help facilitate their participation in the decision about where and with whom the child will live.
  • Arrange for the independent person, including deciding their suitability, unless it is:
    • not practical because the person is not available or the decision is urgent
    • likely to have a significant adverse effect on the safety or emotional wellbeing of the child or another person
    • not in the child’s best interest.
  • Consider the views of the child and family in the decision about where and with whom the child will live.

(Refer to Procedure 5 Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children for information about determining suitability to be an independent person.)

Practice prompt

Make sure that a decision to place an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child complies with the five elements of the placement principle. Refer to Procedure 5Decision making for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

End a placement intervention as part of the immediate safety plan if a subsequent safety assessment establishes that either:

  • no immediate harm indicators are present and the child can return home safely
  • the child is 'safe with an immediate safety plan’ and can return home with the immediate safety plan in place.

If ongoing intervention is to occur after the investigation and assessment is completed and the child is to remain in care, end the assessment care agreement. Make arrangements for the care arrangement to continue with a child protection care agreement or child protection order.

Immediate safety concerns for a newborn baby

Consult with hospital staff as soon as possible if a newborn baby’s immediate safety needs mean they cannot safely be left unsupervised with the mother after the birth. 

Only ask hospital staff to assist in removing the baby from the mother's care if removal has been authorised by:

  • the parents consenting to a care agreement
  • the use of the Child Protection Act 1999, section 18,
    or
  • a TAO, CAO, TCO or child protection order.

Once authority has been obtained to remove the child from the parents care, consult hospital staff about whether the baby will remain in the hospital nursery until ready for discharge. Locate an appropriate care arrangement for the child as soon as practicable, to minimise delays in the baby being discharged.

For an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, speak with the family to:

  • identify family or kin who may be potential carers for the child
    or
  • explore other care arrangement options that comply with the child placement principle.

Practice prompt

Make sure family contact is organised, as early attachment with a primary caregiver is extremely important to the overall emotional health and wellbeing of children, and to healthy adolescence and adulthood.

Explore with the mother possible options to support breastfeeding, if this is what she wants to do. (Refer to Procedure 5 Support the breastfeeding of a child in care.)

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